The Psychology of Vintage

"Writer and stylist Lily Gutierrez (The Holiday Goddess Guide to Paris, London, New York and Rome) on the emotional power of vintage, thrift, secondhand, charity shop and jumble."

Lily Gutierrez on Vintage, Thrift and Jumble

When I was thirteen my friend’s Mum gave me her ivory silk 1940’s wedding dress to wear as a Halloween costume. She’d found it in a charity shop.

It had long sleeves, a high neck, a trillion tiny buttons up the back and it fitted me like a glove. It was my Halloween costume, but then it went on to become my most worn item of clothing.

Vintage Undergarments. Copyright Lily Gutierrez 2021


Leopardskin Vintage – Copyright Lily Gutierrez

Following Courtney Love

I wore it with black Converse sneakers and unbrushed hair to nearly every dinner or party I attended during my teens. I loved the dress’s long train with a loop at the end that I could hang from my finger.

I enjoyed the surprising comfort of a wedding dress; the feel of satin stroking my legs and the way the fabric hung like shower water, spilling down my body.

I was a hopeless romantic but I was also following Courtney Love, wearing something perfect, imperfectly. It taught me about the feel of a beautiful fabric but also to wear what made me feel good.

Now I think of selecting outfits as a kind of super power. I am a chameleon. I can blend into or stand out in any setting, upon my choosing. I know how to make myself invisible.  I can say what I want to, without moving my lips. I do it all with my clothes.

Red Coat Vintage – Copyright Lily Gutierrez

The Long Red Coat

Most of the time I wear comfortable clothes, beautiful clothes but things that also feel pyjama-y. A long red wool coat, like a fancy robe. Stripped trousers, satin-y tops. Flat shoes. These outfits make me feel cosy but they also let people know that I’m safe.

I’m the lovable character in the film, maybe the best friend of the main character.

You can tell me your inner problems and I’ll hold them for you without judgement. I will help you on your way using my psychoanalytical brain and investigative skills to help you form a plan that I’ll present as something you came up with all yourself.

I do this to protect myself, I don’t have the stamina to take on a main role in the play we’re all acting in. I am a match; I have enough spark to perform my line with pizazz but I burn out quickly and need to float back into the rest of the cast where I prefer to be, watching and soaking it all in.

Vintage Business – Copyright Lily Gutierrez

The Trouser Suit

It is my preferred state to feel cosy and comfortable, but I can’t do it all the time. When I go to meetings I deem important, especially ones where I know I’ll be the only woman in the room I wear a trouser suit. I make myself look like money, I wear my Piaget watch and add jewellery details.

The colors I wear are dark, pin-strip or professional. I look immaculate and powerful. I do this to let them know I have the biggest dick in the room, which is something I believe, but with the right outfit on it’s something I can convey to them, too.

It works and it makes me feel mischievous, as if I have a joke in my pocket. People react more than you’d imagine to clothes; it’s no secret.

We know this from any children’s film we’ve ever watched. The wretched orphan becomes a princess and suddenly, with the right attire we can all see how lovely she is and how much potential she possesses.

Then there’s going out. Is there any better foreplay than eating or drinking with someone you like while wearing an outfit that makes you feel like sex? Wearing underwear or a scent on your naked skin, that makes you feel confident.  I choose my scents for me, not for others, I hide it under my clothes on my bare skin, an extension of my sweat.

The psychology of clothes is different for everyone. For my Nan it was always about good shoes and good hair; she noticed both on everyone and I find myself noticing both a lot too.


Vintage for Christmas – Copyright Lily Gutierrez

The Small Sartorial Choices

When an estate agent showed me around a house recently, his scruffy shoes and bad haircut made the building less appealing. For my mum it was red nails and red lips to match, I don’t remember ever seeing her without either. A friend told me to always wear a hat, because you it makes you unforgettable.

I don’t have the head for hats or the lips to be painted red all day, but I understand these things. They are more than armour or a mask; more than something to make us memorable.

They are the things that build us, the small sartorial choices we make that help us blossom, petals unfurling with each tiny decision.

I never wear makeup, although I hope to learn about it soon. And I don’t think I have a signature quirk or look. I am lucky in that I’m very androgynous.

I spent most of my 20’s being mistaken for a boy. I think it’s something that adds to my superpower, being able to play with gender in clothes.

For me it all started with the wedding dress. I couldn’t understand why women were only supposed to wear the best outfit once in a lifetime (like a wedding dress) but men could wear a suit everyday.

I now have 14 wedding dresses. I wear them all the time to the point that I haven’t been invited to a wedding in years. I know the way a dress can make me feel special and I take that feeling whenever I want it.

I love the way vintage clothing can spur my imagination and add drama or fun to my day. I love dressing up in vintage and thinking about the different characters I play.

What secret worlds do your clothes give you access to? And how do you choose to play dress up in your everyday?

Copyright Feature and Photographs: Lily Gutierrez, Holiday Goddess, September 2021


All photographs by Lily Gutierrez

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